Born Standing Up

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Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life - Steve Martin

In this book, Steve writes about his career in stand-up comedy. Martin learned by performing an eclectic mix of material. He read poetry, played banjo, did comedy, and performed magic. As a teenager he cut his performance teeth at Disneyland in Anaheim, California and assorted magic shops. He studied philosophy in College. He wrote for the Smothers Brothers and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. He opened for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Eventually, after hard work, great risks, and perpetually honing his craft, he achieved wild success at stand-up comedy.

The most touching event occurs at the end of the book, when he recounts his final moments with his father, whose approval he sought to win his entire life. His father offered his last goodbyes and said, "I'm ready now." Then he said, "I wish I could cry, I wish I could cry." Steve asked him, "What do you want to cry about?" His answer: "For all the love I received and couldn't return" (197).

Being someone who regularly stands before people, and thus, somewhat of a performer myself (all teachers and preachers perform to some level, although some refuse to admit it) I completely identified with Steve's opening confession: "Enjoyment while performing was rare - enjoyment would have been an indulgent loss of focus that comedy cannot afford. After the shows, however, I experienced long hours of elation or misery depending on how the show went, because doing comedy alone onstage is the ego's last stand" (1).

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